Michelle Obama's Bermuda Shorts Arouse White Supremacists
White Supremacist Website Reaction Sheds Light
on Fury at Health Care Town Halls
Today, NowPublic intern Alia-D published an article here entitled “Michelle Obama Shorts: First Lady in Shorts Draws Attention,” reporting the fascination and controversy in the United States over the bermuda shorts that First Lady Michelle Obama and 'Malio O' wore while disembarking from a plane. While opinions that run the gamut have been expressed, Alia-D quoted MSNBC commenting approvingly, saying,
The mid-thigh jeans shorts Obama sported are something most American women would wear without a second thought.
( . . .)
Any first lady’s fashion choices are closely watched, but interest in Obama’s style has bordered almost on obsession. When Obama showed her spectacularly toned arms in a sleeveless gown at the Inaugural Ball, it sparked such a media maelstrom, you’d think she’d shown up in the nude.
Judging by the over seven hundred views of this article at Now Public, quite a lot of people are at least curious about this “issue”. However, at MSNBC an unscientific polls found that 83% percent of nearly 150,000 respondents agreed with the statement that,
It's fine. People are overreacting! There's nothing immodest about shorts during an outdoor family vacation.
Americans today were apparently so fascinated with Michelle Obama’s shorts that they didn’t even notice or mention that “Malia O” was wearing Rasta Locks and a tie-died t-shirt, both symbols of a progressive attitude rather than rigid conservatism, as well as a determination, at least on Malia O’s part, to, as one article put it, “Free Your African Hair!”
There is intense interest in the Obama women’s style and what it means to consciously, unconsciously, metaphorically and symbolically. An article entitled “Malia O., President Obama's Daughter, Frees Her African Hair” drew over one thousand views at NowPublic on June 12, 2009. So, why all of the interest in the fashion choices of First Lady Attorney Michelle Obama and her two daughters?
On the negative side, there’s clearly some color-aroused hatred and contempt for Michelle Obama among a small minority of Americans whose writing is visible at the white supremacist Stormfront website. A commenter there by the name “Anti-Communist” says:
Michelle Obama tries to look like a White woman every day. If she took off that pink blush and didn't use 1000 chemicals to straighten her nappy hair, she'd look like any other ape from the jungles of Africa. As it stands now, she just looks like a Negress who wishes she were White. Stormfront
For those like the above commenter who are so extremely color-aroused as to hate Michelle Obama simply because her skin is brown, the aghast fascination with her appearance is associated with resentment at her role as the first Black and brown-skinned First Lady. And yet even the extremely color-aroused Stormfronters find themselves comparing Michelle Obama to President John F. Kennedy’s wife, Jacqueline Onassis. The mere fact of being compelled by President Obama’s election to make this comparison infuriates the Stormfronters all the more.
As one Stormfront commenter said,
To make any comparison between this near-illiterate, anti-White Negress and a realfirst-lady, Jackie Kennedy, shows how classless, illiterate, and frighteningly delusional her supporters are. Stormfront
Among the extremely color-aroused antagonistic set, the interest in Michelle Obama is inseparable from the anger, hatred and resentment they feel when they perceive her skin color. If some of these people are appearing at health care forums of Congresspeople and president Obama, it makes the fury and open hatred they express much more comprehensible, and shows that those extreme emotions are, for some, more associated with Obama’s skin color than with his politics.
When I was a child in the 1970’s it was unusual to see any Black women on television at all, and those who did appear were in the stereotypical roles of nannies and Aunt Jemima, none of whom had the freedom to wear the same Bermuda shorts that white women wear while on vacation.
In fact, based on the media portrayal of Blacks at that time, many whites might have found it shocking to learn that Blacks took vacations at all. If television showed Black women wearing shorts, they were in the role of prostitutes and sex objects.
Against this backdrop of embarrassingly and antagonistically color-aroused and stereotypical portrayals of Black women, it is actually a tremendous relief for most Americans - Blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians and Jews – to see a Black woman who defines herself on her own terms rather than being defined by contemptuously color-aroused Hollywood producers or by a police blotter.
THIS Black woman, First Lady Michelle Obama, is obviously very comfortable with herself as an assertive, self-defined, corporate lawyer and public servant. She has an enviably well-toned and healthy physical personhood that sets an positive example for all of us in a nation where the Centers for Disease Control says that 38% of Black women and 21% of white women were obese in 2003. Michelle Obama, simply by being who she is, stands as a role model for millions of others, and she is obviously comfortable with it.
Rather than primly wear a metaphorical corset to the beach and on walks in the Grand Canyon, she dresses as most American women do while on vacation, rather than follow rules that would apply on the beaches of conservative Arab countries.
Many of us are simply proud that our First Lady is able to be herself, rather than a caricature, and wear her clothes like a loose blouse rather than a corset. If First Lady Michelle Obama can do it, and first First Girl Amalia O can do it, then other women and girls all over America have new choices and freedoms as well. I think many of us are celebrating that our First Lady is a human being, rather than a mannequin in the window of an expensive and stuffy store from the era of the corsets.